Don't Fry! Prevent Skin Cancer

Karen McNew McGuire's picture
By Karen McNew McGuire on May 6, 2019

Today, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, but you don’t have to become a statistic.
As we head into summer, Mariana A. Phillips, M.D., Carilion Clinic Dermatology and Mohs Surgery, shares her top tips to help protect your skin, as well as what to keep an eye on in regards to changes in your skin.
3 Ways to Keep Your Skin Healthy
1. Limit time in the sun.

  • Wear photoprotective clothing (long sleeves, hat, sunglasses)
  • Seek shade
  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 daily and reapply liberally 

2. Check your skin regularly for new or changing moles. Use this interactive gallery from the American Cancer Society as a guide.
3. Have regular skin cancer screenings with your primary health care provider or dermatologist.

Those with a history of skin cancer in their family, have red hair, fair skin or burn easily need to take extra precautions as they have a higher risk of skin cancer. Patients with a history of tanning bed use, frequent sun burns or lots of moles should see their dermatologist for a baseline skin exam.

Essential summer gear includes long sleeves, hats and sunglasses in addition to SPF 30 sunscreen.

 What Should You Look For?
There are three main types of skin cancer —basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma (the most serious form)—and each have different signs and symptoms. Let’s break it down.

1. Basal Cell Carcinoma:

  • Pearly or translucent bump on the skin
  • Flat, flesh-colored lesion appearing anywhere on the body
  • A suspicious lesion is often described as a "bubble in the skin"

2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma:

  • Hard, red nodule on face, lips, ears, neck, hands and/or arms
  • Flat lesion with scaly surface

3. Melanoma:

  • Mole that changes in color, size, shape or texture
  • Skin lesion with irregular borders
  • Pre-existing skin lesion that grows
  • Large brown spot with irregularly placed splotchy areas of lighter or darker color

According to Dr. Phillips, other signs to note include:

  • Any growth or change in a pre-existing mole
  • Moles that are bleeding or enlarging
  • An "acne bump" that does not resolve in one month

If you notice any of these signs or changes in your skin, talk to your primary care provider immediately.